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TLC hopes to Charlie Hustle viewers with Pete Rose: Hits & Mrs

Ball foursome: Pete Rose with fiancee Kiana Kim and kids. TLC photo

Premiering: Sunday, Jan. 13th at 9 p.m. (central) with back-to-back "sneak peek" episodes on TLC
Starring: Pete Rose, Kiana Kim, Cassie Kim, Ashton Kim
Produced by: Kevin Lopez, Mark Ford

Pete Rose was predominantly a single hitter, so maybe it's fitting that his new TLC "reality" series falls far short of being a home run.

The 71-year-old lightning rod, still ineligible for the Hall of Fame after betting on baseball as player-manager of the Cincinnati Reds, is playing a notably different game with the six-episode Pete Rose: Hits & Mrs. It's on the network of Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. And it at least rises above that level.

Former Playboy model Kiana Kim, 40 years Rose's junior, isn't quite a Mrs. yet. But she is engaged to "Charlie Hustle." Or at least for the purposes of this series, she is.

Rose, now seen more in a silly looking pork pie hat than a baseball cap, didn't cop to gambling until his 2004 autobiography, My Prison Behind Bars. Now he can't seem to say it enough during the two episodes sent for review.

"I'm not in the Hall of Fame because I screwed up," he acknowledges during one of the talk-to-the-camera moments sprinkled throughout Hits & Mrs.. And later: "I'm not gonna whine about the Hall of Fame because I'm the reason I'm not there."

He'd sure like to be there, though. That's clear, too. And Kiana of course thinks he belongs, encouraging him to be more pro-active during their visit to Cooperstown for an annual Hall of Fame induction ceremony in which Rose signs autographs for money at the Safe At Home memorabilia store. He also tries to explain to her kids, Cassie and Ashton, why he's not enshrined.

The regular night and time for the series is Mondays at 9 p.m. (central), beginning Jan. 14th. But TLC is "sneak peeking" two episodes at the same Sunday night opposite NBC's telecast of the Golden Globes.

Rose lately splits his time between signing stuff in Las Vegas and hooking up with Kiana in Valencia, CA, where he also runs a baseball camp.

In the first episode, he's good-naturedly bothered by her decision to have breast reduction surgery after having them artificially enhanced several years before meeting a now ballooned up Rose. "What do people calls us? Felons and Melons?" she wonders.

Activities include taking Cassie and Ashton to a batting practice cage. "You gonna hang with me, you gotta know how to hit," he reasons. The kids pretty much hate it.

Pete and Kiana, who calls him "babe," also try to get his grown kids and her sister to attend some sort of wedding announcement dinner. Even though there's no date set, and he seems to be in no particular hurry to firm one up.

Hits & Mrs. has the usual redundant reality filler and various contrivances. It's a little affecting, though, when Kiana's mother says "Pete, welcome to my family" in a way that seems unrehearsed and impulsive. His own kids are no-shows, so he seems genuinely touched.

Rose whacked out an all-time record 4,256 hits during his playing days. Hits & Mrs. is at best a bloop single for a man who's otherwise doing all right for himself in the arms of a busty, seemingly intelligent bombshell who also gets a kick out of his overall coarseness.

"Get your hand outta there," he says playfully when they disappear under the sheets at the end of one episode.

Babe Ruth might trade his Hall of Fame plaque for that kind of action.

GRADE: C-minus